April 21, 2014

And There It Sits

Buying an RV is not something most of us do on a whim. Whether it is a motorhome, trailer, or pop-up camper, there is at the very minimum several thousand dollars invested in your rig. A newer Class A motorhome (the kind that look like very fancy bus) can range from $100,000 to well over one million dollars.

When Betty and I took the plunge about 18 months ago we bought a used Class C motorhome. So far we have been very pleased. It is almost 8 years old, has over 120,000 miles on the engine, and has some cosmetic wear and tear. But, we have been diligent in the maintenance and upkeep and have every expectation that the big Ford V-10 engine will last at least 200,000 miles, much longer than we are likely to own it.

Because it was an older model with higher mileage I think we got an excellent deal. Including an extended warranty (a necessity on a used vehicle with so many mechanical parts) we paid just under $30,000. All the other costs involved in maintaining it have been less than $2,000 so far. The towing equipment for the new towed car will be somewhere around $2,500. All of this is definitely  not small change for us but worth it as an investment in our satisfying retirement and the chance to try on a new lifestyle.

In the year and a half we have owned R.T. (Road Trip) we have driven about 4,800 miles and spent 64 nights away from home. That means roughly 88% of the time we have owned R.T. it has been parked in the side yard. Some might say it has become a very expensive yard ornament.

That does raise the question I get from blog readers: does buying a motorhome make economic sense? Unless you are going to make it your home for at least 4-5 months of the year how can the expense be justified? Most RVers are probably like us - their RV sits for most of the year.

You probably won't be surprised that I have an answer: It makes no economic sense at all. Even the idea that you can save money on motel and restaurant bills when you are on vacation doesn't work. For something that gets less than 9 miles to the gallon, must be maintained and insured, and usually spends nights on the road in a campground that averages $25-$40 a night, the no motel  argument falls apart. You may not be eating in restaurants, but you still must buy food.

In one instance an RV can be a cheaper way to leave home: if you find a campground in an area of the country you like and spend at least a month. You aren't burning gas for that 30 days and the monthly fee is much less than the nightly charge.

So, if an RV usually makes no economic sense for most of us recreational users, then why spend all that money?

*Freedom that is hard to feel any other way 
*Stepping out of your normal routine - not better, just different
*Exploring the country in a way you can't if you fly.
*Having the comfort of your things with you when you stop for the night
*Time together with your spouse or significant other without interruption, or,
*Time alone to still your mind, recharge and refocus
*Waking up and going to sleep close to nature

RV travel is not for everyone. You might be the type of vacationer that wants to be pampered, have a restaurant prepare all your meals, choose from a zillion TV channels, and sleep on a huge bed with down pillows. That is the way I preferred to take a break (preferably in Hawaii, England, or Italy) before I discovered RV travel.

Now, I can't wait to get on the road. The freedom is intoxicating and the feeling of adventure around the next bend can't be beat. The cost is high but the payoff is higher. Betty and I have chosen to cut our budget in other places so we can spend in a way that makes us happy.


For this year the time on the road will increase to around 90 nights. Next year I expect the total to be well over 120 nights away from home. I am excited.


And isn't that what a satisfying retirement is all about?



Freedom machine or expensive lawn ornament?



33 comments:

  1. An RV makes total sense to me.
    Let me add a few things to your list:
    The dogs can go with you.
    No waiting in the airport with people who are sick.
    You encounter friendly people in the campsite the next day.
    If you didn't know the place well when you planned it- it is easy to change once you get there.
    You can stop when you are tired instead of pushing past the edge to just get to the hotel.

    We would do it in a heart beat if the taxes for such vehicles were not so high in this state.
    Freedom has no real price after all.

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    1. Excellent additions to the list, Janette. Airplane travel has become such a nightmare I avoid it all all costs. Yes, can use a car to have some of the same experiences, but constant restaurant meals get expensive, and how clean are those motel bathrooms and sheets? With an RV you really control your environment and living conditions.

      Bailey thanks you for the mention of dogs. She loves the RV and chance to smell all sorts of new smells and explore all new things everyday.

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  2. Fortunately, you don't always have to do what makes the most economic sense. Sometimes, you can just do what makes you happy. I'd rather tent camp, but I'm glad you're enjoying RT. Happy Trails!

    That Other Jean

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    1. There are usually sacrifices in doing something that makes you happy, but having the freedom to make those choices is priceless.

      We started out tent camping when we were first married. Betty enjoys it but I have problems sleeping on the ground and a continuing childhood fear of the boogyman coming out of the woods to grab me.

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    2. Yes, this exactly. If you are/have lived correctly in a financial sense and you can afford it then there is not the need to always do the cheapest thing possible. If that were so I would never buy a new blouse, honestly I have enough to probably take me to the end of my life if we are just talking about covering my body.

      I would never buy a book even if the library doesn't have the one I want, and we certainly wouldn't do the massive amount of travel that we do. All of these are pleasure, not necessities and we can well afford them.

      Having said that, one of my major obstacles to RVing is the thought of cooking on a vacation. The love of the frying pan missed my DNA by a country mile. :)

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    3. Betty agrees with your frying pan argument. I do half the cooking at home and half the cooking on an RV trip, plus we go out a bit more often....my attempts to lessen that negative!

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  3. Whatever floats your boat...or fuels your RV!
    b

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    1. If gas tops $4 a gallon (about $3.50 here now) long trips may become a problem. In that case, shorter trips with one or two week stays, or longer trips with one or two month stays in one location may become required to keep on fueling the RV!

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  4. There are other considerations besides the monetary ones. There are too many priceless advantages to owning an RV if that's what you're in to. There are always trade offs. I just had a house full of company with not enough beds for the 17 house guests. The overflow slept in an RV, another advantage of having extra beds in the driveway!

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    1. Betty and I are going to use the RV as our private space the first night while babysitting for our grandkids for several days next month. Before the parents leave early in the morning we can sleep on sofas in the house, or on a queen bed in the RV parked in front of their house. Guess which one we are choosing!

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  5. As a person who has wondered about owning a RV, I'm curious if you and your readers feel fairly safe while in most campgrounds. I know there is no such thing as a totally safe environment, and hotels/motels have their own safety concerns, too. Just curious about this consideration.

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    1. Yes, I do feel safe. Safety is one of the reasons I am not a fan of tent camping. You are just too exposed and vulnerable. But, inside a locked RV I feel very safe. In an emergency I can just start the truck and drive away.

      State parks that allow tent campers and motorcycles can sometimes be a bit noisy. But, private campgrounds and most state parks are quite safe. There are always "hosts" who live there and are responsible for keeping things under control. Plus, most RV campers are older and likely to be asleep before they can get into trouble!

      I feel safer in a well run RV park than a motel in a strip mall near any major city.

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  6. The reasons you state are why I decided not to go the RV route (those as well as the fact that we already have timeshares and a hotel chain vacation club points). But if we did not have the other options, I would RV in a heartbeat. As you state, you make tradeoffs to get the experiences out of retirement you want, cutting back possibly extraneous stuff elsewhere. All my life I made virtually all decisions based on economic factors. But you pointed out that is not possible with an RV unless it was virtually your year-round home, and you sell your traditional home. The answer is just to enjoy it while you can, make adjustments in the budget to compensate for it, and just have fun.

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    1. Unless gas prices become too onerous, we just cut and paste in other areas to make it work.

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  7. Since we moved to the woods, my days are so full, and I am still so entralled! that we have put looking at RV's on the back burner till maybe autumn. There are places around the Mogollon Rim we want to take time to explore now that we HAVE TIME but I expect in 6 months or so we will be ready to venture further afield. I would love to be able to take a small RV to a river or stream, and park for a couple of weeks or a month at a time.. and hopefully have some small towns to explore nearby. We traveled by air to fun places for years, and I am very tired of airports and the hurry up feeling of that kind of travel.. much more interested in meandering. I still wonder if the RV is LESS expensive than ,say,driving all the way to Norther California,a stopping at hotels all along the way--it would seem it HAS TO BE less expensive than those hotels and meals out?? I wonder if someone out there has a real time breakdown of say a 2 week trip?? Yours and Betty's and Bailey's big trip is almost around the corner,Bob!!

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    1. It really depends on how far you drive, and the type of RV you have. A pop-up camper or small trailer pulled behind a truck is going to cost a lot less than a Class C or Class A motorhome to get from point A to point B. If the stream you camp beside is in Oregon, for example, the 2400 mile round trip is going to burn up a lot of gas....more than you would probably spend on motels up and back.

      Yes, you save on restaurant food and can eat healthier meals. If traveling with a pet there is no concern of finding a motel than accepts pets or how to go out to a meal and leave the pet alone in a small room.

      As a rough guideline, I plan on $65 a day for RV travel, not counting gas. That $65 includes the average cost of a campground we would stay at, and the food, and any entertainment/admission costs. The gas costs are directly related to how far we may drive.

      For our trip this summer I have budgeted $6,000. Because we won't be at home, I will save on electric bills. During the trip I will use the normal amount we budget for food and dining out during that time, so my actual extra expenses will be less.

      We go to Tucson tomorrow morning to meet up with Tamara and Mike Reddy for a few days, then a long weekend with the family in Flagstaff in June...and then gone July-September!

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    2. Madeline, I won't share it here and now, but my next blog is about driving the open road and I will share some costs on the driving option-Having taken more than a couple two week trips in the past few years. That said, my personal reasons for not taking an RV has little to do with the money. I LIKE to drive at speeds that are higher than most RV drivers are comfy with, and a DISLIKE cooking on vacation, among other reasons-I'm willing to hit the grocery store for lunch and breakfast so I can eat out every night!

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  8. I'd also be interested in any experiences people have with RV time-shares or shared ownership.

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    1. That's an interesting question, Kelli. Of course I am aware of renting RVs, but have not heard of any shared ownership type arrangements. I hope someone responds with some information on this type of RVing.

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  9. It's your money - spend it however you want. We are trained all our lives to save and plan for the future but once you are retired the future is pretty much now.

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  10. I don't have an RV. I don't have a boat either. But I imagine traveling in one is like traveling in the other -- slow going, hard to maneuver, cramped quarters, very expensive. But, a lot of people who have them, love them. So, like you say, whatever floats your boat!

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    1. I wouldn't agree with your characterization of an RV, but glad you agree I should float my own boat.

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  11. The fact that owning an RV "makes no economic" sense eases my "RV envy" a little. I can see why you love it, but neither us wants to drive one, we cannot park it at our house (restrictions) and my husband snores so I need a quiet guest room for an escape. Guess I will have to settle for reading about your adventures.

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    1. Snoring is a problem I hadn't thought of, but you are right. Space is tight.

      We don't have any restrictions in our area so parking ours on a side yard behind a gate and wall is no problem. But, if we move to a condo-type situation then we will have to budget for monthly storage fees.

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  12. We live in a small town, but I walk and bike and ride the bus everywhere we do have a car, but I don't drive it..I see big motorhomes parked in and near lovely homes..I always wonder why they do that they never take it out at all..They were going to do it when they retired, they did not..lived in homes over 25 years, paid off one retired at 50 the lady at 66 goodness gracious it would be sold and gone..We go with another couple in their prius everywhere to the beach eastern Washington wine ventures and seattle too..we try to pay for gasoline it is almost $4.00 a gallon here, I have known the couple since kindergarten they won't take a dime so I cook where we go to a lovely home tiny on the beach 5 hours from our home, I bring the turkeys, hams and food in the trunk, I cook all the time for them and the lady who has the tiny house we stay in it, the couple who drives sleeps in a rv class A big with other childhood friends, it never leaves the property..Will never understand why people buy those huge motorhomes and it rests on the side of the house and at a beach property. Never, we hope the Amtrak for seattle and go places with friends in their prius car which gets huge gas mileage with little or no gasoline..my oh my!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  13. Bob,...I've started an irreverent blog look at retirement. http://retiredgrump.blogspot.com/

    Could we mutually link? Whatever.

    Lester Welch

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    1. Lester, I will start taking a look at your blog on a regular basis. Give me awhile to review before I commit to a link.

      Thanks for the interest!

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  14. You have said it all Bob...doing the RV bit makes absolutely not monetary sense at all...in fact n no vacation ever does. But you know that learning and growing in our retirement is so very very important. I for one am happy to see you doing this. You will never regret it.

    b+

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  15. I so appreciated your post & all other inputs & follow-ups re: RV decision & +s/-s!. Husband retired in March, I in 2005, both 66 yrs old, & stuck on the RV buy decision off/on for a few years. Never owned 1 or camped. We r looking new & 24', no tow car. Some ?s to compare our & your situations - How big is your < $30,000.RV (Road Trek?), pic looks 27-28', worried about feeling cramped, not carrying enuf supplies for > 4 or 5 days in 1 place. Are u the only driver or u & spouse tradeoff? Where u live do u winterize or keep going out? Any input from u will only help! Thk u, Jayne B. NJ (not a user of other Profile choices)

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    1. Let me see if I can give you a few answers to help you in your decision-making process. Our RV is a 2006 30 foot Class C from Four Winds. We bought it used from Cruise America. They do a good job of refurbishing older units from their rental fleet. The cost, including extended warranties, was just under $30,000.

      For the two of us and a dog, 30 feet feels fine for up to 2 months at a time. Smaller units usually don't have a full sized bed or separate shower and bath compartments. We shop for food every 5-6 days. We do have a towed car which is valuable for clothes storage for extended trips. But, we can pack all we need in just the RV for up to 3 weeks at a time.

      Usually you spend at least part of the day outside the RV so don't think of it as a house where you are in a very small space 24/7.

      We live in Arizona so there is no real winterizing, though we do drain all the water from all the systems, wash and wax the rig, and cover it with a tarp. I run the generator every 45 days for an hour to keep the house battery and generator in shape.

      I am the only driver at the moment, though we have plans to train Betty to handle things in case of an emergency.

      Hope that helps, Jayne.

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  16. Thank you for each piece of experience that you shared in your reply above! Your reply capped off all of the other entries here and filled in our fresh perspective toward our decision to get an RV. And it will all surely help in our use of it!
    Just a day ago, we settled on a PleasureWay Plateau XL 2015, delivery in March/April, Q size Murphy bed over sofa, dry bath across the back with the biggest shower of all the RVs we've seen (& I've measured every shower for quite awhile now). It is a friendly size overall so I am hoping to become my husband's relief driver, and maybe we can get around a bit at each stop even without a tow car (although we might miss the tow's 'closet' potential!).
    We have been financially careful, and we are now in our 'now' years, and ready for freedom, sites, new experiences, and the warmth of the people we'll meet (and our puppy companion) as we mosey around.
    Again, thank you, and I will continue to check here to see what I can learn next.
    Jayne

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    1. How exciting! You will love it - the freedom, the excitement of new discoveries. Be sure to send me a picture once you take delivery.

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